A team player for the YAA

Alison Cole '99 knows Yale from several angles.

Alison Cole ’99, the new executive director of the alumni association, has worked in the athletics department and the Yale College dean's office. View full image

It was midday on May 8, days before her first official day as executive director of the Yale Alumni Association (YAA), but Alison Cole ’99 wasn’t standing on formality.

She had already participated in a YAA staff open house that morning at Rose Alumni House, in preparation for the May 11 Yale Day of Service—a major YAA initiative. A one-time captain of the Yale women’s lacrosse team and an All-American athlete, Cole is all in as Yale’s alumna-in-chief.

When Cole’s predecessor, Weili Cheng ’77, announced this past fall that she was stepping down, a committee of alumni (plus Joan O’Neill, vice president for alumni affairs and development) launched a nationwide search—and then they found Cole.

She was already working on the campus. In her most recent role, Cole had worked in the Yale College dean’s office, focusing on communications, implementation, and administration of undergraduate programs. Cole also worked as a liaison between the development office and Yale College, helping to identify areas of need. Her official title (before the YAA recruited her) was senior associate dean for external affairs and special projects in Yale College.

None of that was part of Cole’s game plan when she graduated from Yale College in 1999 with a major in political science. Her first job out of school was with Women’s Sports & Fitness magazine, a Condé Nast title, where she worked in marketing and promotions. When that magazine folded, she was assigned to Condé Nast Traveler, where she worked in high-end client services. “I loved the work,” she says. But then a beloved Yale mentor, former athletic director Thomas Beckett, suggested she consider applying all those skills to college athletics, where she had thrived.

Cole subsequently took a job with Brown University’s sports foundation—and named her son Beckett, after her mentor. After becoming assistant director at Brown, Cole shifted to a similar position at Yale in 2008. “I thought AD [athletic director] was going to be where I might end up,” she says, but instead Cole moved to Yale College in 2017.

What now for Cole and the YAA? “We need to understand how to make more people aware of the great things that are happening here,” she says; the YAA represents and serves more than 180,000 Yale University alumni. “I left here thinking I was leaving,” says Cole, looking back on her Yale graduation. “What would I tell more young people when they’re leaving? Think about coming back. I love Yale more than ever.”

1 comment

  • Ron Sipherd
    Ron Sipherd, 12:11pm July 06 2024 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Weili Cheng will be a hard act to follow, but Ms. Cole is off to a good start.
    I look forward to hearing more from her in the YAM and elsewhere.

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